Mayor, city manager deliver glowing report for Sugar Land
By Joe Southern
It was Sugar Land’s time to shine on its own big stage.
Mayor Joe Zimmerman and City Manager Allen Bogard gave the annual State of the City address Thursday, this time from the stage of the new Smart Financial Centre. The venue highlighted one of the major accomplishments for the city in 2016.
Utilizing a stage built for rock stars, Zimmerman and Bogard augmented their presentation with video and graphics, giving a rosy overview of the city’s accomplishments in the last year and a preview of what they expect to happen this year.
“Because of our focus on preparations last year, Sugar Land residents will be able to enjoy an impressive variety of new destination venues as well as unprecedented growth in our community,” Zimmerman said.
Many of the city’s highlights from 2016 were presented in a video. Among them were:
- Completion of Smart Financial Centre
- The Sugar Land Skeeters winning the league championship
- Maintaining a AAA bond rating and low property tax rates
- Flourishing business
- Cullinan Park annexation
- Central Prison unit land purchase
- Airport improvements
- Celebrating Olympic winners
- Surviving heavy flooding
- Drainage improvements
- Installing license plate recognition cameras
- Building a new traffic center
- Starting the process of annexing Greatwood and New Territory
“Sugar Land is recognized as a city that carefully plans for its future and the coming year will be no exception,” Zimmerman said. “One of the things that sets us apart from other municipalities is our longstanding commitment to manage our city just like a business. We employ the same business principals as private companies, including the development of a strategic plan, short- and long-term business plans and hiring the most qualified employees with a constant focus on providing the highest level of customer service.”
Zimmerman said Sugar Land is seeing fulfillment of the five major objectives outlined in 2007 by a visioning task force. Those goals included building a minor league baseball stadium, a festival site, a community cultural arts center, a hotel and conference center and an indoor concert venue.
“Three of these have been completed with the opening of the Smart Financial Centre,” he said. Constellation Field opened in 2012 and is beating attendance projections. A festival site will open later this year.
“The city will also work in the next year to establish future private sector partnerships on two new projects which will include developing a new industrial park and a hotel conference center,” Zimmerman said.
He said the city added 500 jobs last year, marking a 41 percent increase in jobs since 2012. In that same time the population grew less than 4 percent. In December, however, the annexation of Greatwood and New Territory will be complete, adding 30,000 new residents and boosting the city’s population to 117,000.
Zimmerman then had Bogard talk about The challenges of annexation and some of the other projects on the board for 2017.
“Implementation of this initiative will be the biggest operational challenge in years for our organization,” Bogard said. “But the City of Sugar Land is up to the challenge. There are many benefits of annexation for both current and future residents.
“Current residents will have the pleasure of welcoming two outstanding communities to our city, communities which boast first-class infrastructure, beautiful parks and well-maintained neighborhoods at no cost to our current residents. For our future residents, becoming part of the City of Sugar Land community means receiving the same high-quality services as our current residents, while most will experience an overall reduction in cost.”
He said the pre-annexation planning budget is $6 million, all coming from a fund set up years ago in anticipation of the communities entering the city. That work includes the hiring and training of new police officers and the expansion of city facilities, including the municipal court, police and dispatch offices and the animal shelter.
Among the other projects Bogard spoke about were $27 million in street improvements, specifically upgrading Williams Trace Boulevard and extending University Drive across U.S. 90A to South Stadium Drive. He also said drainage projects will continue with an emphasis on Covington Woods, The Highlands and Sugar Creek subdivisions.
Zimmerman closed out the address with a few more acknowledgements and recognitions.
“Later this year we will open the Sugar Land Heritage Museum and Visitor’s Center, which will be located in the existing container warehouse, one of the original buildings that was part of the Imperial Sugar Company complex,” he said.
Noting that Sugar Land had received international notoriety for the selfie statue erected in Sugar Land Town Square last summer, he and Bogard finished by taking a selfie with the crowd in the background.